’Shields suffer cup final agony

North Shields FC.
North Shields FC.

North Shields’ late revival wasn’t enough as Blyth Spartans were crowned Northumberland Senior Cup champions.

In a repeat of last year’s final, Blyth deservedly led 2-0 through Luke Armstrong’s first-half double before the action unfolded in the final five minutes of the game.

Dean Holmes pulled one back for the Robins in the 85th minute but Ryan Hutchinson restored his side’s two-goal advantage four minutes later.

Substitute Gareth Bainbridge then almost simultaneously made it 3-2, though it was a case of being too much too late for Jon McDonald’s side as Blyth held out to lift the trophy.

McDonald and his players must take the positives from their second-half performance ahead of the League Cup final clash with South Shields in nine days’ time.

The Robins would have no doubt gone into this game expecting a tougher opponent than last season’s finalists given the Spartans’ eye-catching promotion from the Northern Premier.

And the Shields boss would have expected an electric start by Blyth, but the problem was that it carried on throughout the first half.

Jarrett Rivers forced a solid save from Hayes just two minutes in.

Hayes was called back into further action four minutes later when Dan Maguire first saw the Shields number one save with his knees before rising to deny Maguire again.

The Spartans were well on top of the Robins and somehow hadn’t taken the lead when Sean Reid’s header was cleared off the line in a crowded penalty area.

But quite soon after, Blyth’s early dominance eventually paid off when Armstrong finished on 23 minutes.

Reid ran through the centre of midfield freely to pick out Armstrong who made no mistake.

The pace of Robbie Dale and Maguire was causing the Robins many problems as Hayes was continued to be kept busy.

Mason carried Shields’ most threatening attack of the half in the 43rd minute when he broke on the left-hand side, though his final pass seen the chance go to waste, which proved very costly for the Robins.

Seconds later, the ball ended up in the Robins penalty as the ever-threatening Maguire fed in Armstrong for his second of the evening just before the break.

Shields started the second-half on the front foot as Ryan Carr firstly disappointingly headed wide. Mason then had a low shot saved from Holmes’ short free-kick.

But with the two-goal advantage, Spartans seemed more than happy to sit deep and counter the Robins knowing they had the pace they possessed to carry them forward.

McDonald brought on Michael McKeown on for Adam Forster on 61 minutes, which brought an instant opportunity for Shields.

Holmes pulled back his pass to Carr who picked out McFarlane but his poor first touch slowed the chance as Paul Woolston held Carr’s tame effort.

With Blyth continuing to sit back and looked deadly on the counter attack - Jack Donnison twice made two vital goal-line clearances to keep it at 2-0 -

McDonald turned to Wilson, who took the place of Mason.

Wilson quickly exampled his known strength to as he turned in the Blyth penalty area, though his shot hit the side netting.

Hayes, who was made to save efforts all afternoon, was equal to another on 82 minutes by getting a leg to Rivers’ driven shot on 82 minutes.

And when Holmes hammered the ball into the roof of the net with five minutes to go, a relatively quiet half comparing to the first was given an entertaining ending.

Hutchinson added a third for Blyth from a Maguire cross to certainly wrap up the game for the National League North newcomers.

Still, there was time for another Bainbridge goal on the big stage as he turned to brilliantly fire the ball into the corner.